Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Ah but this story actually gets a lot better when you dig a little further.  The plot thickens -- or sickens -- or both...

Glyphosate/Fusarium Connection:

WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (IPS) - Scientists are expressing alarm after finding elevated amounts of potentially toxic fungal moulds in food crops sprayed with a common weed killer widely used with genetically engineered (GE) plants.

Roundup, produced by food-industry giant Monsanto, contains a chemical called glyphosate that researchers are blaming for increased amounts of fusarium head blight, a fungus of often very toxic moulds that occurs naturally in soils and occasionally invades crops, but is usually held in check by other microbes.

If true, the allegations could not only call into question the world's number one weed killer, but they also jeopardise global acceptance of Monsanto's flagship line of genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops.

Those crops are themselves unaffected by the Roundup weed killer, which kills all competing plants, such as weeds, in the same area.

Monsanto has been producing a series of GE Roundup Ready seed stock for various crops, including cotton, soybean, wheat and corn, to be used exclusively with their successful glyphosate weed killer Roundup. But because they are genetically engineered, the crops have not found easy acceptance in many countries outside the United States, and they are still banned in Canada and Europe.

A four-year study found that wheat treated with glyphosate appeared to have higher levels of fusarium than wheat fields where no glyphosate had been applied, said Myriam Fernandez of the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current, in Canada's Saskatchewan province.

Google for "glyphosate fusarium" and you find a number of other links, including many hand-waving denials by various "Monsanto representatives".

Glyphosate and other powerful weedkillers are almost inevitable in monocrop agriculture because the monocrop is a wildly unbalanced system, incapable of self-regulation.  "Weeds" live fairly amicably alongside food crops useful to humans in diverse dense polyculture, but to "optimise" use of a huge land parcel by planting it exclusively in one cash crop requires draconian elimination of all "competitors" (and this again is a madness deriving from a neoDarwinist ideological mindset which believes only in competition, not in symbiosis).  Eliminating "weeds" also eliminates the cycle of succession planting and green manuring that keeps soil viable, and ... well, here we go.  

A biotic system is not a factory;  industrial agriculture tries to impose the factory template onto a biotic system;  the result is an ever-escalating round of bandaids to address a never-ending series of disasters.  Compared to the idiocy of plantation industrial ag, the old practise of killing the king every year and burying him in the corn field looks like rock-solid sanity.

Recommended reading:  Biomimicry by Benyus, especially Ch 2, "How Will We Feed Ourselves?" -- a good overview of the lunacy of monocrop agriculture and the robustness of dense polyculture.  Of particular interest is the Land Institute's experimentation with "edible prairie," a very promising form of permaculture.

Note again that fusarium is a naturally occuring fungus normally held in check (in balance, in other words) by other microbial populations.  Plantation ag specialises in destroying the microbial population of the soil, rendering it a sterile "growing medium" salted with artificial fertilisers.  What it does is essentially to kill off all the antibodies, white blood cells, etc. -- and then wring its hands and act shocked, shocked I tell you, when the patient's compromised immune system collapses.

The plantation monocrop model is inherently futile.  However, it is the most "efficient" way of stripmining soil resources and funneling profit into the hands of rentiers.  Capitalism requires the plantation monocrop model to ensure (temporarily, anyway) delusional rates of return on loans.  But the rate of return is contrabiotic, hence the agriculture method is contrabiotic, therefore doomed.  Finance capitalism has to give way to biotic reality, or experience a Jared Diamond Collapse due to its own pigheaded insistence on the primacy of imaginary money over real biology...  The banana is just one poster child for this process, there are plenty of others.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri May 23rd, 2008 at 12:58:30 PM EST
The glyphosate link is interesting. Of course that herbicide has been the object of a huge load of hype (biodegradable, innocuous, etc), but interesting things are surfacing here and there about it. I doubt you'll have missed last month's publication by Barney Gordon of Kansas State (no less!) showing manganese uptake deficiency in RoundUp Ready soy (explaining lower yields than conventional soy).

Gordon (from the Google cache, the pdf is for some reason disabled...)

There is evidence to suggest that glyphosate may interfere with Mn metabolism and also adversely affect populations of soil micro-organisms responsible for reduction of Mn to a plant-available form. Manganese availablity is also strongly influenced by soil pH. As soil pH increases, plant-available Mn decreases. It is unlikely that Mn deficiencies will occur on acid soils. It stands to reason that the addition of supplemental Mn at the proper time may correct deficiencies and result in greater GR soybean yields.

Quite un-glyphosate-connected, my neighbour who grew 50 hectares of GM BT maize last year - MON 810 - had fusarium problems with it. This makes it officially unsaleable in France because of the microtoxins present. (Spanish buyers are less fussy and the crop just went South of the border). Where there might be a link is the effect on soil micro-organisms of the transgene from bacillus thurengiensis, which is a... soil bacterium.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 23rd, 2008 at 04:34:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's unfortunate but information in papers presented by researchers and scientists working for the Ag Companies (In-House and Out-House :-) cannot be trusted.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jun 19th, 2008 at 11:38:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that Gordon's explanation of "yield drag" (consistently lower yields from GM crops than conventional) is a sweeter one for Monsanto than a plain genetic one: ie to get performance of a specific nature from an engineered plant, you inevitably have to sacrifice yield. (That, btw, is the opinion Marie-Monique Robin stated the other evening.)

Still and all, he's saying you need to sprinkle some Mg fairy dust over the field on top of the rest. So what was meant to simplify farmers' lives (easy weedkilling) turns out to be less simple (and more costly) than promised.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 20th, 2008 at 05:20:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Capitalism requires the plantation monocrop model to ensure (temporarily, anyway) delusional rates of return on loans.

That's one aspect of the system.  

The other is monoculture temporary replaces people with machinery.  This, in turn, "frees" rural labor allowing them to move to cities, increasing the available labor force in the metropolitan areas.  As the supply of labor increases in the cities it drives down wages.  

This is only one result of a system that seems to be designed to embrittle and then beggar the rural economy while ensuring the metropolitan areas are forced into wage slavery and poverty.  In both cases, labor is stripped of the economic rewards of their labor by the predators and parasites.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Jun 19th, 2008 at 11:33:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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